Friday, 18 December 2009

More Goodies from Blue Mars

Member MyPage
Today sees the launch of the member MyPage. The link is here.

From this screen you can (some are still to be activated):
  • Change your User account email address.
  • Change your User account password.
  • Buy inworld currency, the BLU.
  • See a list of friends in your Friends List and their online status.
  • Download the latest Blue Mars Client and patches.
In addition, you also get access to your Inventory, that includes
  • An image of the item
  • Its name
  • Category of item
  • Type of Item
  • Description
  • Date of Acquisition
You can also change your Avatar first and last names, how you want them to be displayed, change your avatar face, or reset it completely, change the gender (some clothes may no longer be used, so use with care).

More to be added, keep checking in....
Thursday, 17 December 2009

Blue Mars New Release: The Main Details

The new Blue Mars release is now much smaller, at around 320MB compared with the previous download size of 1.3GB. This is mainly due to no longer bundling Cities in the download. See the City Browser section below for further details.

City Browser
The new City Browser lists all cities that you currently have on your HD and lists all the other cities available on the AR servers. Selecting a city in the browser will now download it in the background. The time to download will depend on your broadband speed. City file sizes will typically be in the 200MB - 500MB range. You must restart Blue Mars to be able to visit any City you have downloaded.

New Cities
The new Blue Mars release comes with two new Cities to explore, an update to an existing City, and a new bowling game.

Desmond Shang, well known in Second Life with his Caledon Victoriana sim, has established a colony now on Blue Mars, and named it Caledonia.

There is a very nice article on this new venture at the Prim Perfect website, and Desmond has created his own website for Caledonia that is well worth checking out.

Desmond has not stopped there, as he says on his website:
If Victorian Caledonia isn't quite your cup of tea, check out Pavonis, a tropical archipelago under the same management but with large islands available for development, not subject to Caledonia's 19th century thematic restrictions.

Grid Rock City
In addition to the two new Cities, Grid Rock City has a new look. Several new buildings and other interesting developments, such as a Twitter interface, so check it out!

Beach City

There is a new Aloha Golf Clubhouse, and if you click on a golfbag you are teleported to the Golf Course.

Also new is a bowling game.

Blue Mars Client
The new client has a number of new features and improvements:
  • Improved Communications Panel
  • Purchased items go into Inventory
  • Clicking the ground to walk no longer makes a sound
  • New icon set

The first icon takes you back to the City Browser to select another destination to teleport to. The second icon brings up the screen resolution and graphics rendering quality preferences. The third (?) icon takes you to the flash tutorials, while the last icon Exits Blue Mars.
    New and Improved Websites
    There are now new websites for Blue Mars: > >

    Updated developer tools (editors)
    All the Wiki pages for Item, Cloth, Shop and Furniture Editors have been updated, with new examples on how to create cloth and furniture.

    All Editors will now display version number, build type, and build date on the window title bars, and you can also see this information in the Editors' splash windows and About windows.

    Right-clicking on the Bluemars.exe file and viewing the Properties should now show the same version information.

    Blue Mars City Editor
    The City Editor is now available to everyone though the Dev MyPage. City developers can now:
    • Load block layer files and export pak files.
    • Upload pak (CTY) files to Avatar Reality through Dev MyPage.
    • Upload pak (CTY) files to Avatar Reality through FTP
    • Set an area that requires an item.
    • Define a block
    Flash functionality
    • ARFlashEntity makes it easy to incorporate Flash anywhere in Blue Mars.
    • Just drag and drop the entity to create a resizable panel, type the URL, then hit the Enter key.
    How-to included on the wiki.
      Blue Mars Block Editor
      • Block Developers can now use Flowgraph.
      Blue Mars Shop Editor
      Shop owners can now:
      • Create custom Shop interiors in the Shop Editor.
      • Set Shelves on leased Shop through Dev MyPage.

      Blue Mars Furniture Editor
      • Developers can create furniture items and upload them for QA approval through MyPage, in the same way as in the Item and Cloth Editors.
      New Female Avatar Mesh
      Updated female avatar face and body mesh included in this release:
      • Beautifully-formed
      • Better animation
      • Optimized for skin texture matching


      Pricing information
      Expected tomorrow, 18th December. Check this page.

      User MyPage ( )
      This will enable you to:
      • Change your User account email address.
      • Change your User account password.
      • See a list of friends in your Friends List and their online status.
      • Download the latest Blue Mars Client and patches.
      Edit Avatar feature:
      • Change your avatar's first and last name.
      • Choose how you want your avatar's name to be displayed in the chatbox in Blue Mars (hiding both avatar names will show your User ID).
      • Reset Face: Reset your avatar's face to default, while keeping customized cosmetics, animation and clothing intact.
      • Reset Avatar: Reset your avatar's face, cosmetics animation, and gender to a default state. You will then be able to change your avatar's gender.

      Even More
      • Buy Blue Mars currency (BLU) to purchase items and rent Residences.
      • Inventory page will show items you purchased with your BLU.
      • Room page will show Residences you are renting, and a Guest List where you can give your friends access to your Residence.
      • Message page to send and receive messages to and from your friends.

        Wednesday, 16 December 2009

        Blue Mars: The Biggest Release Yet!

        Today sees the start of a series of Blue Mars releases that promise to be the biggest yet. Of course, not everything that people want from Blue Mars will be included, that will have to wait for future releases (that is the nature of this beta period), so I intend to concentrate in these articles on what is included.  Do check back often over the next few days.

        New Wiki

        Blue Mars has now opened its wiki to all, including the previously off-limits City Editor sections, so no password is now required to access the City Editor information.

        The Wiki is now also a true wiki, where everyone, developers and users alike can contribute. Initially, everyone can create 'draft' pages, and after review will be posted by the wiki admins.

        Blue Mars Wiki
        Sunday, 13 December 2009

        Diary: 13th December, 2009

        Blue Mars News
        A new release is expected on the 15th or 16th December, and it promises to introduce a lot more content and a revamp to the UI. Also expected are a release of pricing info, a new website, and updated wiki and FAQ.

        The T-shirts and apartments for volunteers, along with a volunteer training guide, are also expected this coming week.

        The differences between the Blue Mars City Editor and the Crysis Sandbox has also been added to the Wiki now. The current state of compatibility is as follows:

        UDK Tests
        The final outcome of the tests were that it was very difficult to introduce real-time content into UDK-developed Virtual Worlds without access to the sourcecode. Consequently, these tests have now been brought to a close.

        Avatar to go on General Release this Week

        Following the incredible premiere of Avatar at the Odeon, Leicester Square, London on the 10th December, the mega-movie is about to go global this week.

        I plan to take in the movie in one of the specially made 3D movie theatres, perhaps the largest 3D movie screen there is, in Dubai next weekend.

        Tuesday, 8 December 2009

        Opensource/Free Virtual World Platforms - Part 2/2

        Continuing this summary of currently available Virtual World platforms and engines, my final five are among the lesser-known, but do check them out.

        Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web. Alice is a freely available teaching tool designed to be a student's first exposure to object-oriented programming. It allows students to learn fundamental programming concepts in the context of creating animated movies and simple video games. In Alice, 3-D objects (e.g., people, animals, and vehicles) populate a virtual world and students create a program to animate the objects.

        NeL is a toolkit for the development of massively online universes. It provides the base technologies and a set of development methodologies for the development of both client and server code.

        NeL contains the following libraries:
        • Miscellaneous library
        • 3D engine
        • Network engine
        • Sound engine
        • Collision engine (PACS)
        • Form management (Georges)
        • Landscape management (LIGO)
        • Logic engine
        NeL works on Windows, Linux and Mac under the GNU General Public License.

         The OpenSceneGraph is an open source high performance 3D graphics toolkit, used by application developers in fields such as visual simulation, games, virtual reality, scientific visualization and modelling. Written entirely in Standard C++ and OpenGL it runs on all Windows platforms, OSX, GNU/Linux, IRIX, Solaris, HP-Ux, AIX and FreeBSD operating systems. The OpenSceneGraph is now well established as the world leading scene graph technology, used widely in the vis-sim, space, scientific, oil-gas, games and virtual reality industries.

        Solipsis  is a French R&D project (ANR-RIAM) leaded by Orange Labs, funded by ANR and Media & Networks cluster of Brittany, launched in January 2007 and based on prior works dating from 2000. Five partners are involved:
        • IRISA - Peer-to-peer networks & distributed systems
        • Archivideo - Auto generation of 3D models & declarative method
        • Artefacto - Avatars, contents & enhanced 3D modelling tools
        • Rennes 2 University - Sociology of Community
        • Orange Labs - Navigator, node and a bit of everything

        Solipsis aims to create a public, massively-shared and user-generated unbound digital universe, sustained by a dedicated Peer-to-Peer protocol, with a modern day rendering engine and some great and accessible 3D modelling tools. In other words: a decentralized Metaverse platform. 


        Syzygy is a programming toolkit for writing virtual reality or other graphical applications. Syzygy applications can run on a single computer, but it is especially designed for the creation of applications to run on clusters of networked computers. Programs or instances of the same program running on different computers in the cluster communicate with one another and share data.
        Syzygy runs on Windows, Linux, MacOS X, and Irix. A cluster can be heterogeneous, i.e. you can mix different operating systems. Installation varies somewhat between operating systems.
        The Syzygy libraries themselves are written in C++.
        Sunday, 6 December 2009

        Opensource/Free Virtual World Platforms - Part 1/2

        With 2009 rapidly coming to a close, we have seen a number of changes in open-source Virtual World platforms and engines, with the noticeable departure of M.U.P.P.E.T., the arrival of Unity, and the no-show of Myst Online. This is the year-end round-up of the current state of play.

        Changes through 2009
        Visitors to the M.U.P.P.P.E.T home page are informed that the website is down for maintenance, as they get ready for the next version. However, that message has been there since at least August 2008, and neither of the two links on the home page, to the latest version of the software, and to the SIGGRAPH documentation, currently work. I think we can safely say that after more than a one year absence it is unlikely that they will return.

        The big news during 2009 was the introduction of the Unreal Development Kit (UDK) from Epic Games, although it is still to be determined if this free games engine can be utilised to support Virtual Worlds. For this reason it is not included in this current list, but it has been the subject of separate articles in this blog. Also during 2009 came the announcement that the Unity multiplatform game development tool, was to be made available for free. Unity does appear to have all the ingredients necessary to support the building of Virtual Worlds, so I have included it in the current list.

        Missing from the list is Myst Online, who made the following announcement more than a year ago:
        Cyan Worlds, Inc. has agreed to put the program code sources for Myst Online: Uru Live into open source. The code sources that will be included are the code for the client, all the servers and tools. With the source to the client and the servers, fans should be able to set up and run Myst Online: Uru Live and bring Uru community back online.
        However, there is still no sign of this being followed through.

        Current Platforms

        The Croquet Project is an international effort to promote the continued development of the Croquet open source software development kit, for creating and delivering deeply collaborative multi-user online applications. Implemented in Squeak Smalltalk, Croquet supports communication, collaboration, resource sharing, and synchronous computation among multiple users. Applications created with the Croquet Software Developer's Kit (SDK) can be used to support highly scalable collaborative data visualization, virtual learning and problem solving environments, 3D wikis, online gaming environments (MMORPGs), and privately maintained/interconnected multiuser virtual environments. Since release of the Croquet SDK in 2007, the SDK has not been under active development. All continued development of the technology has taken place under the very active Open Cobalt effort.

        Croquet is MIT licensed.

        The Metaverse Project
        The Open Source Metaverse Project, or OSMP, was a multi-participant shared virtual world online platform. This platform was free and open source software co-founded in 2004 by Hugh Perkins and Jorge Lima.

        OSMP is loosely modeled on the World Wide Web borrowing ideas from existing worlds such as Second Life, Active Worlds, and There. This project aimed to produce an open source engine for the creation of streamed 3D worlds, also making it possible to interconnect existing worlds into a single open, standards-based Metaverse.

        As of 2008, the project was no longer active. Most developers shifted focus to development of open source software compatible with Second Life, but the software is still available on SourceForge.


        OGRE (Object-Oriented Graphics Rendering Engine) is a scene-oriented, flexible 3D rendering engine (as opposed to a game engine) written in C++ designed to make it easier and intuitive for developers to produce applications utilising hardware-accelerated 3D graphics. The class library abstracts the details of using the underlying system libraries like Direct3D and OpenGL and provides an interface based on world objects and other high level classes.

        OGRE has a very active community, and was's project of the month in March 2005.[2] It has been used in some commercial games such as Ankh and Torchlight.

        Open Cobalt

        Open Cobalt is a free and open source virtual world browser and construction toolkit application for accessing, creating, publishing, and hyperlinking avatar-based multi-user virtual worlds that are accessible both on local area networks or across the Internet. It is designed to enable the deployment of secure virtual world spaces that support education, research, and the activities of virtual organizations. The Open Cobalt application is a type of 3D browser that can be used to define and access a network of interlinked 3D virtual environments in much the same way that web browsers are used to define and access web based content on web pages.


        OpenMASK (Modular Animation and Simulation Kit) is a platform for modular applications development and execution in animation, simulation and virtual reality fields.


        OpenSimulator is a 3D Application Server. It can be used to create a virtual environment (or world) which can be accessed through a variety of clients, on multiple protocols. OpenSimulator allows you to develop your environment using the technologies you feel work best - we've designed the software to be easily extendable through loadable modules to build completely custom configurations. OpenSimulator is released under a BSD License, making it both open source, and commercially friendly to embed in products.

        Project Darkstar

        Project Darkstar is an open source MMOG middleware solution written in Java by the Project Darkstar team at Sun Microsystems. It is a research project currently headed by Sun Microsystems engineer Jim Waldo that was publicly released on August 30, 2007[1], and "aims to help developers and operators avoid a range of serious, yet typical, problems associated with massive scale online games, virtual worlds, and social networking applications today, including zone overloading, data corruption, and server underutilization."

        Project Wonderland

        Project Wonderland is a 100% Java and open source toolkit for creating collaborative 3D virtual worlds. Within those worlds, users can communicate with high-fidelity, immersive audio, share live desktop applications and documents and conduct real business. Wonderland is completely extensible; developers and graphic artists can extend its functionality to create entire new worlds and new features in existing worlds.

        Sirikata is an BSD licensed open source platform for games and virtual worlds. They aim to provide a set of libraries and protocols which can be used to deploy a virtual world, as well as fully featured sample implementations of services for hosting and deploying these worlds.


        Unity is a multiplatform game development tool, designed from the start to ease creation. A fully integrated professional application, Unity just happens to contain the most powerful engine this side of a million dollars, but now available for free!


        VastPark is virtual worlds technology done right. The framework is simple, distributed and extensible. It's not a single virtual world. Instead, it provides free software tools, APIs and open source libraries so you can deploy (and even monetize) your own virtual worlds and add ons for all kinds of organizations and purposes.

        vr juggler

        The VR Juggler project was started in 1997 by Dr. Carolina Cruz-Neira and a team of students at Iowa State University's Virtual Reality Applications Center. This ongoing work has produced a freely available open source, community-oriented virtual reality application development framework. VR Juggler is released under the GNU LGPL and will always be available for anyone and everyone to use free of charge.

        Wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy and propersous 2010.

        Wednesday, 2 December 2009

        UDK Investigations: Initial Results

        Acknowledgement to Epic Games and their UDK. Picture is their Copyright.

        As I mentioned in my Diary entry for the 13th November I have been involved with a small team of seven developers to establish whether the Unreal Development Kit (UDK) can be successfully used as a platform for creating standalone virtual worlds as opposed to just game modding.

        With this purpose in mind, we started off by defining what users would normally expect from a Virtual World, then we investigated those definitions to see if the UDK supported them or not, then formulated tests to demonstrate compliance.

        The definitions we used were that a Virtual World should be a virtual space, that is persistent, and where its residents can:

        • Change their environment, either with inworld or offworld building tools
        • Change their appearance, in terms of shape, skin, hair and clothing
        • Teleport from one area, or one zone, to another
        • Communicate with Chat, IMs, VoIP, Friending and Friends List
        • Fly, run, walk, jump in a smooth and intuitive manner
        • Have an economy, where virtual goods may be bought, sold and traded
        I believe those are the 'core' functions of any virtual world that hopes to be successful, and it is these core functions that need to verified and validated to determine if the UDK can indeed be used to create Virtual Worlds.

        Each of the developers took on an area from the above list to investigate, and the initial results are now in.

        Building Tools
        The UDK has no provision for inworld building (like SL), and objects are built offworld in 3d apps then uploaded. We are currently looking at a hybrid approach where there will be a low-def building toolbox within the world, using primitives similar to SL, but with the prim set extended, and with the ability to import far more detailed meshes from external 3d apps. We are encouraged by the amazing work of Gary's Mod.

        Avatar Appearance
        I don't think I have seen anything better than the one in APB, a game built on the Unreal Engine. It just shows what is possible with this awesome engine.

        We now know that a teleport system is available in the UDK, as a good example of this is in the "DM-Deck" map, where you can teleport from a low ground position to a high platform.

        We will start looking at maintaining avatar appearance and inventory across teleports next.

        Communications and Friending
        Only basic console chat is available in the UDK. In UT3 and other Unreal games, VoIP, chat, IMs, Friending etc, was achieved by their tie-up with GameSpy, which became an integrated partner. Alternatives to GameSpy, such as Raptr, and Xfire are being investigated, but also possibly an in-house solution. At the very least, Skype could be used.

        Walking, running and jumping are all included in the UDK, and the controls are what users of games expect. There is no native support for flying (as in SL) so this will need to be coded.

        There is no provision in the UDK for an inworld economy, so offworld economy models are currently being researched (similar to XStreetSL). Inworld, money can be treated as just another inventory item, and be earned, paid, spent etc as normal. If the 'rezzing' of objects inworld can be solved, then inworld stores would be feasible.

        Monday, 23 November 2009

        Leaving Opensim

        Below is the text of the post I made to the OpenSim core-devs about my decision to leave the OpenSim project.

        I have decided to leave the Opensim project. You will probably not even notice if I leave, as not being a programmer my only inputs were the writing of the step-by-step tutorials, the drafts of the OpenSim User Manual on the Forge, and helping out in the IRC channels, for newcomers. You may find my reasons for leaving Opensim interesting though (and please do not construe any of my reasons as an attack on anyone).

        1. The Platform
        I raised this several times in the past in IRC, and made posts on my blog about the product lifecycle of the platform. I believe that the platforms underpinning both Second Life and Opensim are quite long in the tooth now, and I questioned how much product lifecycle there was left, particularly given that Opensim is now nearing 3 years of development, is still in Alpha, and if the current release of 0.6.7 is any indicator, then still only around two thirds into the development cycle. With the (inevitable) coming of much superior platforms, such as Blue Mars (as a virtual world); and Unity, for browser-based Virtual Worlds; and now UDK (for creating sandboxes, standalones, and open grids), then I fear that Opensim has missed the boat as far as the remaining lifecycle of the platform is concerned. When you show people what is possible with these engines (for example this avatar editor for the forthcoming APB (using the Unreal Engine):  or this city  (using the CryEngine), then neither SL nor Opensim stands comparison.

        2. Lack of Support for Currency in Opensim
        I felt the impact of this when I first made the switch from SL to Opensim. I had a thriving RP sim in SL (over 50 people, mainly female) and they all agreed to follow me over to my Opensim and the OSGrid. However, within a month they had all left, citing the same reasons, the lack of places to shop to buy the quality stuff they wanted (skins, hair, clothes etc), as a quality appearance, and the fun of shopping is what all the females placed high on their requirements from a Virtual World. They drifted back to Second Life, and the guys followed them. I have always believed that the lack of support for currency in the core was a mistake, but that is just my opinion.

        3. Marketing
        I have also raised this issue several times, and blogged about it. It is far from clear just who an eventually released Opensim is actually aimed at. I think that any company that is interested in a firewalled corporate solution to collaboration and prototyping will already be looking at the Enterprise solution that is currently available from Second Life; that any indie group that is thinking of running a themed grid will need an economy to stay viable; and any individual who is looking for a private sandbox solution for their SL work will need full compatibility (which is not the case with the OS version of LSL diverging from the SL LSL). So, just who is the platform aimed at? I was also very disappointed in the view of one of the core devs who said that 'marketing is a null concept for us'.

        I am currently designing and creating cities for Blue Mars, and involved in a team for proving the UDK as a platform for the design and creation of sandboxed or standalone Virtual Worlds (as opposed to purely games), and with so much documentation available for these mature engines (particularly for the UDK, Blue Mars lags behind somewhat in that department, but are working to put that right), I am achieving the productivity I want, building the worlds that I want, with stable crash-free platforms.

        However, I do wish the Opensim team the very best in their endeavours, and I sincerely hope their goals are eventually achieved.

        If anyone would like to take over the main Opensim Tutorials pages and the Additional Tutorials (they will need some updating following several changes) then I am more than willing to pass the posts over, and of course the Opensim User Manual is there in the Forge for anyone to develop further.

        Best Regards and Good Luck

        Friday, 13 November 2009

        Diary: 13th November, 2009

        Blue Mars Progress Painfully Slow
        I have been stalled in my city creation for weeks now. This has been mainly due to a lack of information on scripting, vehicle editing, and understanding the differences between the editors. I see in the Developer Forum poor Takuan has been soldiering on, with little or no support, in trying to get to grips with Lua scripting. He must be very frustrated.

        I hope more resources become available soon so I can resume my build.

        UDK Development Making Good Progress
        I have been working on a proof-of-concept virtual world development using the Unreal Development Kit I blogged about earlier. With another developer from Blue Mars and a modder named Ridders from the UDK forum, we have been conducting experiments to establish a net-wide interface to enable a server running a map or game to be accessed remotely by another client across the net. I am happy to report that these experiments have been successful, and remote connections are now possible, and understood. The need for experimentation is also due to the lack of good quality step-by-step documentation, but in general the wealth of documentation available to UDK modders is huge, compared to the documentation available for Blue Mars.

        Here are some of the resources I have been using:

        UDK General Features with much useful Info

        UDK Getting Started 

        UDK Content Creation

        UDK Programming Home

        UDK Documentation Forum

        Saturday, 7 November 2009

        Now the Unreal Engine 3 is Free

        Epic Games, Inc. announces the launch of the Unreal Development Kit (UDK), a free edition of Unreal Engine 3 that provides community access to the award-winning toolset like never before. This software release is available to anyone interested in using 3D game engine technology, including game developers, students, hobbyists, researchers, creators of 3D visualizations and simulations, and digital filmmakers. Anyone can start working with the industry-leading Unreal Engine 3 toolset by downloading UDK at, where detailed product features, technical documentation, commercial licensing terms, support resources and more are also available.

        An unprecedented milestone in game development, the release of UDK awards free access to the same world-class tools and technology used by many of the world’s best video game developers and publishers. Unreal Engine 3 is a constantly evolving game engine, and UDK contains all the most recently added features and technological enhancements, including many that have yet to be seen in an Unreal Engine game. Furthermore, Epic Games will release ongoing, upgraded builds of UDK for free.

        There is no charge for noncommercial or educational use of UDK. Over 100 academic campuses currently use Unreal Technology as part of teaching game development-related courses, and colleges with plans to incorporate UDK into their curricula include the University of Pennsylvania, North Carolina State University, The Art Institute system of schools, Drexel University, Westwood College, DeVry University and Atlantic College, with many others to be announced.

        Individuals and companies wishing to develop software for commercial purposes should refer to licensing terms at Commercial terms have been structured to make it easy for independent developers, start-up firms and seasoned professionals to use UDK with minimal financial barrier from concept to deployment. UDK is currently for PC use only, although console support is under consideration. Developers approved to make games for Xbox 360® and PLAYSTATION®3 may inquire for more information by emailing

        Benefits of UDK include the following:
        • Immediate access to Unreal Engine 3, the critically acclaimed 3D game engine technology for cross-platform game development.
        • Easy content creation with the Unreal Editor, a fully integrated suite of top-tier development tools, which comes complete with:
          • Unreal Content Browser, a revolutionary tool for browsing, searching and organizing game assets with collaborative metadata tagging system.
          • UnrealScript object-oriented programming language and Unreal Kismet, a visual scripting system that enables rapid prototyping on the fly.
          • Unreal Matinee, a powerful tool with movie director-class controls for building in-game cinematics and gorgeous cut scenes.
          • Unreal Cascade, an advanced particle physics and environmental effects editor that aids the creation of fire, fog, explosions and other visuals.
          • NVIDIA® PhysX®-powered physics system with Unreal PhAT visual modeling tool for creating character and object physics rigs.
          • Unreal Lightmass, a global illumination system that dramatically lights and shadows with minimal effort required by artists and designers.
          • AnimSet Viewer and AnimTree Editor, which give animators precise control over every muscle and bone movement.
        • Time saved thanks to technology integrations with leading game development middleware tools including SpeedTree®, Bink Video®, and FaceFX®.
        • Output of standalone applications: Games created with UDK run entirely on their own with no additional software required. This means anyone can make UDK content and distribute it for free.
        “I’m excited about the possibilities the Unreal Development Kit opens to those who are looking to get into the game business but don’t otherwise have the means to acquire world-class technology and tools like ours,” said Mark Rein, vice president of Epic Games. “UDK is Unreal Engine 3, which has been used to create games in a wide range of genres, as well as military simulations, 3D architectural walkthroughs, animated movies and more. Users are only limited by their imaginations. Go ahead make something Unreal!”

        Psyonix Studios (, a game studio based in San Diego, Calif., created the first proof-of-concept game using UDK in less than two months using a two-man team of one artist and one programmer. “Whizzle” is a downloadable vertical scroller in which players swim through underwater levels as an adorable sea creature that collects items and frees allies from captivity. To read more about “Whizzle,” view the developer diary video, or download technical documentation, visit

        Until now, noncommercial access to the Unreal Engine 3 toolset has been available only through the PC versions of games such as Epic’s “Unreal Tournament 3” and “Gears of War” games. Users made new game experiences, called modifications or “mods,” by changing existing game assets or creating original content through the Unreal Editor tools that ship with every game copy. Many of these mods have been showcased through the $1 Million Intel Make Something Unreal Contest (, which awards over $1 million in cash and prizes to aspiring game developers.  While mods require running the original game for interaction with user-created content, UDK provides a standalone experience every time, meaning a smaller digital footprint and no additional software requirements.

        “The Ball,” an award-winning “Unreal Tournament 3” mod by Toltec Studios (, is available now as a free UDK-powered download at Anyone authoring mods for Epic’s PC games can port their original content over to UDK.

        Support for UDK includes over 200 pages of newly unlocked documentation at the Unreal Developer Network (, dedicated forums (, as well as other resources available through the UDK web site, 3D Buzz also hosts hundreds of free video tutorials for using Unreal Engine 3 technology at

        Furthermore, Sams Publishing and 3D Buzz recently published two definitive guides for learning the Unreal Engine toolset, “Mastering Unreal Technology, Volume I: Introduction to Level Design with Unreal Engine 3” and “Mastering Unreal Technology, Volume II: Advanced Level Design Concepts with Unreal Engine 3.” Both books are bundled with a free, downloadable copy of “Unreal Tournament 3” for PC.

        About Unreal Engine 3
        The award-winning Unreal Engine is known for cutting-edge graphics and its best-of-breed toolset. Unreal Engine 3 maintains those features in addition to multi-core processor support, Xbox 360® and PLAYSTATION®3 optimizations, massive world support, and a highly mature tool pipeline. Unreal Engine 3's consistently evolving toolset is designed to accelerate developers' productivity for PC and console games, visualization applications, training simulations, and linear animated content. Additional information on Unreal Engine can be obtained through the Unreal Technology Web site at

        About Epic Games
        Epic Games, Inc., based in Cary, NC and established in 1991, develops cutting-edge games and cross-platform game engine technology. The company has created multiple million-selling, award-winning titles in its “Unreal” series, including “Unreal Tournament 3” for PC, PLAYSTATION®3 and Xbox 360®. Epic’s “Gears of War” won over 30 Game of the Year awards, and the sales of "Gears of War" and “Gears of War 2” have eclipsed 11 million units. Epic's Unreal Engine 3 is the three-time consecutive winner of Game Developer magazine’s Best Engine Front Line Award and is this year's Hall of Fame inductee. Unreal Engine 3 has also been recognized as the number one game engine by Develop magazine. Additional information about Epic can be obtained through the Epic Games Web site at

        © 2009, Epic Games, Inc. Epic, Epic Games, Gears of War, Gears of War 2, Unreal, AnimSet Viewer, AnimTree Editor, Unreal Cascade, Unreal Content Browser, Unreal Development Kit, Unreal Editor, Unreal Engine, Unreal Kismet, Unreal Lightmass, Unreal Matinee, Unreal PhAT, UnrealScript and Unreal Tournament are trademarks or registered trademarks of Epic Games, Inc. in the United States of America and elsewhere.  All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
        Thursday, 5 November 2009

        Codename: Nebraska

        Yesterday, November 4th, 11:15 am - 12:00 pm PST, Doug Thompson (Dusan Writer in Second Life) moderated a mixed-reality panel at Enterprise 2.0 in San Francisco and Metanomics inworld with:
        • Mark Kingdon, Linden Lab's CEO, 
        • Neil Katz, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Director IBM Virtual Spaces, CIO Office Innovation Initiatives, 
        • Steve Aguiar, Program Manager at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center's (NUWC's) Metaverse Strategic Initiative,
        • Douglas Maxwell, Program Technology Lead also at NUWC's Metaverse Strategic Initiative.

        Mark Kingdon

        Mark Kingdon, CEO of Linden Lab, unveiled “Nebraska”, the LL code-name for a stand-alone solution based on the technology that runs the popular Second Life virtual world. “Nebraska” is the much-anticipated behind-the-firewall solution which allows enterprises to host their own virtual world environments within their organizations, which was first introduced back in April.

        Mark spoke about the benefits of the platform, the intended audience, and how it fits into the broader challenges and opportunities of “enterprise 2.0”. Mark was joined by a number of customers who had used Nebraska during the closed beta phase of development.

        Nebraska consists of two rack-mounted servers, hosting two software packages: a world server and a voice server, which can be installed on an enterprise's network, and as it does not have to stream all the content that LL normally streams for Second Life, it is blazingly fast. Similar to the standalone version of Opensim, but much more polished.

        The avatars in Nebraska are all 'suits', with none of the Pamela Anderson and Professional Wrestling lookalikes that seem to predominently populate Second Life. The package supports up to 800 avatars over 8 regions, each of which can be turned off, and replaced with another using a different theme. So, you could have training regions one week, then replace the regions with conference and show regions the next, saving to, and loading from, the region inventory at will.

        But how much does all this cost? Well, the mooted price is US$55,000, plus US$14,000/year in fees, which should bring a big sigh of  relief to the open-source Opensim community.

        Nebraska is aimed at providing enterprises with a SL-looking virtual space for their corporate activities, without the seedy association of SL itself.

        In addition to Nebraska, Mark also introduced the Work Marketplace, where corporate customers could download ready-made regions, providing solutions for virtual conferences, events, exhibitions, training, marketing, etc., and a selection of business and work-related avatars, office suites, and much more, for their Nebraska customers, under a site license.

        It remains to be seen whether this is a major new direction for Linden Labs.

        Monday, 2 November 2009

        Unity now for Free & FriendsHangout

        Early in 2009 I mentioned the recent trend in Virtual World design that required little or no downloads, and where all content was streamed directly to your browser (basically, if you can watch streamed movies on your PC you can use streamed games and virtual worlds). As we approach the end of 2009 one company stands out as the leader of this trend, Unity Technologies.

        The Unity software allows anyone, with no programming experience whatsoever, to quickly develop games and virtual worlds, that can be run in a browser, using simple drag and drop tools. A player can start a game or visit a world on their home PC, then continue on the move via their mobile phone!

        Up until recently, the Unity software came in two main flavours: Unity Pro, at US$1,499 and a cut-down version, Unity Indie, at US$200. That has now changed. Unity Indie has now been renamed to simply 'Unity' and is now available at zero cost, while still allowing the user to create commercial applications. The main restriction between Unity and Unity Pro is that Unity is limited to a maximum of 20 avatars per 'world', which is ample for most applications. Unity is available in both Windows and Mac versions, and versions are also available for creating applications for both the iPhone and the Wii.

        The Unity download comes complete with a simple but powerful Editor, and a sample project, Tropical Paradise, which is available to browse, along with other projects in Live Demo format on the Unity website.

        Models and objects for your world can be created in almost all current 3d applications. A list of 3d formats, image formats, video and audio formats supported is available on the Unity Asset Importing page.

        Of course, once you have created a virtual world you will need to host it so your customers/friends can access it through their browsers. Hosting can be on a dedicated server, a Virtual Private Server, or even on your home PC if your upload speed is fast enough. So, what do you do if your ISP does not quote your upload speed? The answer is - you measure it. Use one of the internet connection speed measurement services. The one I like best is SpeedTest.NET Just select the recommended server to test with (click on the yellow pyramid), and it will measure first your download speed, then your upload speed. My upload speed is 1Mb/sec and it handled myself and a visiting friend with no problem at all. I did not check how many avatars 1Mb/sec could handle (but hey, you have to have something to check yourself, right?).

        Many Games, 3d Chat Rooms and Virtual Worlds have been built now using Unity, and  one such company that provides over 4000 chatrooms, virtual worlds, and custom 3D worlds, using Unity, is FriendsHangout (terrible, unimaginative name, I know). You select the World you wish to visit from a rotating set of destinations boards (think Blue Mars Destination Island here, but rotating).

         There are no facilities for creating objects in FriendsHangout (that privilege is reserved for the creator of the world), but if you are looking to update your avatar, you will find clothing and animations to bring your character to life in your own custom style.

        You can also create your own custom chat room and virtual world and buy furniture and various props to add your own design to each and every item in their catalogue.

        Give it a try.

        Wednesday, 28 October 2009

        Blue Mars Developer Guidebook

        While the most visible faces of the Avatar-Reality team have been working on the Blue Mars Client, providing more and more functionality, squashing bugs, arranging Meet & Greets, gathering feedback etc, other teams have been busy creating the developer tools, and providing detailed manuals for their use on the Blue Mars wiki pages.

        The Wiki team is led by Scott Matsuda, the CSR, QA, and QC Manager at Avatar Reality Inc.

        The Getting Started section of the Developer Guidebook explains the different types of developer in Blue Mars:

        The Item Editor
        Made specifically to have everything an Item Creator needs

        Sandbox Item Editor is a 3D geometry model viewer and material editor for Blue Mars Project. The primary purpose of this tool is to convert 3D models in Collada format into a Blue Mars internal data format, examine the results visually and edit material properties of converted models as desired. Sandbox Item Editor uses CryENGINE2 for rendering; thus, it displays objects exactly as they will appear in the game. The manual provides a detailed description of its menu commands and special functions.

        Note: in some images and documents, linked to this page, the Item Editor is also called Sandbox Viewer, which is the old name of this tool.

        The Cloth Editor
        Created specifically to have everything a Clothing Creator needs

        The Cloth Editor is a tool for creating wearable assets: clothes, hairstyles, shoes, jewelry and other items, that can be attached to an avatar.

        The Shop Editor
        Created specifically for developers who are creating shops in Blue Mars.

        This Editor is currently under construction.

        The Block Editor
        Created specifically for developers who are developing Blocks, a subset of a City.

        The Block Developer leases a Block from the City Developer to develop Shops and to create Residential housing on it. The Block Developer may choose to lease out their Shops to Item Developers and Housing to Residents, or decide to develop the entire Block by themselves. The Blue Mars Sandbox: Block Editor is the 3D software editor that enables the Block Developer to place their Shops and Residences on their Block. Block developers may also design limited Flow Graphs. Lastly, the Block Developer may place vegetation in the Block, but only as brushes.

        Also under construction, but is filling up fast.

        The City Editor
        Created specifically for developers whom are creating entire cities.

        The City Developer leases their City from Avatar Reality, then creates Blocks which can be leased to Block Developers.

        Also under construction, but filling up nicely. 

        The Shop, Block and City Editor pages all require a login to view their pages, and only are only available to registered city developers.

        Other sections of the Wiki will be introduced in future posts.

        Wednesday, 21 October 2009

        New Blue Mars Release Part 2/2

        The new Blue Mars client has a few more tricks up its sleeve.

        The login screen now has buttons to link to the Tutorials pages, and for retrieving a lost password.

         Another change is the Clothing Inventory. At first I thought they had forgotton to add a 'Cancel' button, but that little arrow on the left side of the Inventory window closes it.

        I could be mistaken, but it also appears that the list of Animations and Gestures has been increased significantly. I certainly don't remember a Fart animation before!

        I now have a pic of that missing texture I mentioned in Part 1. Here it is:

        I also noticed a strange alpha problem. You see that archway that my shadow is pointing towards? Well, if I swing my camera around (using right-mouse button down, and dragging the mouse), so it looks our from inside that archway, then not only do the boat, railings, water, and other objects disappear, but I do too! In the third screenshot you can see my name-tag is still there, and my shadow, but not me!

        This is what the camera 'should' see:

        This is what it actually sees:

        So, what else is there lurking under the bonnet of this new release?
        • Avatar draw distance has been doubled.
        • Room customization UI has been changed.
        I also referred in the first Part to the Preferences button, and how you can change the Client window resolution. The new supported resolutions are:
        • 1920 x 1080
        • 1600 x 900
        • 1440 x 810
        • 1280 x 720 (Default)
        • 1024 x 576
         The developers have had a MyPage for some time, but now all Players will get their own MyPage. Players can log into the Player MyPage to purchase BLU and manage their profile information, avatar, items and Residences.

        In this release:
        • Edit your account email and password.
        • Edit your avatar name.
        • Choose how you want your avatar name to be displayed in Blue Mars (first and last name, first name only, last name only, hide all).
        • Reset your avatar's face.
        • Reset your avatar data (including the face, cosmetics, clothing, and animation).
        • View a list of your friends and their online status.
        • Download the latest Blue Mars Player Client.
         Coming soon:
        • Buy BLU!
        • Click to see friends' profiles.
        • Message your friends. 
        • Manage your Residences (pay rent, register your friends as guests).

        I shall post the link to MyPage as soon as the server is back up.

        Have fun